Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Soapbox

Mrs. Griffith goes to Washington.

Wait, is that me? Mrs. Griffith is my mother-in-law. I honestly had a moment the first time a babysitter called me that. I know I have gray hair and don't go out on Saturday nights anymore, but please, I'm still young! It's like the first time you go out and don't get carded...and then you rush out to buy better under-eye concealer.

So, up at 6:00 to get ready and sit in traffic. Such is life in a suburb. We made it downtown in plenty of time, although Eve apparently thought it was still too early to be out of bed. Some things are genetic, I suppose.

First order of business: a rally at Taft Memorial Park. I spent most of the time making sure Eve didn't chase squirrels into the street. We got rid of the cancer, Eve. Don't want to lose you in a freak Rocky and Bullwinkle chase scene.

Former Representative Deborah Pryce's daughter is the namesake of the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. Caroline, age 9, lost her battle to neuroblastoma in 1999. My hat is off to Pryce for being able to compose herself when she speaks of her daughter. Note to self: bring more Kleenex.

Our first meeting was with Jane Miller from Representative Howard Coble's office.

In addition to me and Eve, there were three women from the Jeff Gordon Foundation, one mother of a leukemia survivor, one young lady who recently survived brain cancer, and a mother who lost her daughter to rhabdomyosarcoma in March. Could you say no to a group like this?

"Seriously, mom? Did she just tell us NO?"

Yep. No love from the Coble office. Turns out there's this big deficit and the economy's bad and other people want money, too. Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease in children; it claims more lives than all other childhood diseases combined. But in this economy...

I wonder how much could be raised if Congress would vote to reduce their cost-of-living raises by a percent or two in the future? I mean, if you're not willing to appropriate funds, I'm not above begging for personal donations from Congress. It would be considered philanthropy, and people eat that stuff up. "Oh, he's a philanthropist! I'm voting for him again! Or at least I'll sleep in on election day and hope no one votes for his opponent."

On the way out, I grabbed a bag of complimentary peanuts and listened to the girls talk about Jeff Gordon. Nuts and Nascar. You're never too far away, North Carolina!

Our next meeting was with Representative Walter B. Jones. I have to tell you, I love this guy.

No bones about it, he wants to keep our money here in the U.S. I'm not saying that I don't want to help out other people in the world, no, no, no. But I agree with Rep. Jones that if we have BILLIONS of dollars going into foreign aid and kids are getting sick and dying over here, how hard can it be to get a measly $30 million? And can you believe I just used the word measly when describing $30 million? This is coming from the girl who jumped up and down when she got $20 in Taco Bell bucks for Christmas. That's a lot of tacos.

I know a lot of dog owners judge people by how their dog reacts to others. I judge my representatives by how they react to Eve. And Mr. Jones didn't look annoyed that Eve was rifling through his things. Points in his column.

While he was deep in coversation with some of the other ladies in the room, I noticed Eve stopped trying to throw the signed Catfish Hunter baseball in his office and turned bright red. Oh Lord. Eve is taking care of business in a Congressman's office. Matt and I like to refer to this process as "giving a $h!t." After completing the transcation, Eve opened up a door, behind which offered a hallway with two other doors. Rep. Jones looked up and told us we could use his bathroom if we'd like. Did he think it would keep her occupied and out of the way while he talked with the others? Or did he smell something?

He probably did smell something in this picture. You'll have to get past the strange prom pose; Eve was tired of the paparazzi, and this was the only angle we could get where you could see part of her face. But, poor Walter B. Jones- that dirty diaper was in my bag. The same bag that is a foot and a half below his nose.

It's not everyday you get to use Walter B. Jones' personal bathroom. I can check that off of my bucket list.

Our next appointment was with Senator Richard Burr. Again, he liked Eve and Eve liked him. So there's a few points in his column.

There were no North Carolina peanuts or talk of Jeff Gordon during this meeting. But the Senator did show Eve a talking duck that sits in front of his fireplace, and not only did he show her the duck, he showed her the red button she could push to make it talk. ("I should have been the Aflac duck!") And sing. Nothing punctuates a meeting on children dying from cancer like a mallard singing the first three minutes of Free Bird. Again, North Carolina, you are never far away.

The best part of the meeting was when he came over with a three-ring binder and said it was full of $150 billion dollars in waste. Maybe we could get rid of some of the stuff in there and get money to fund the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. But I'm wondering if there's this binder with $150 in known wasteful spending, why is it just sitting in a binder? I'm assuming this is how meetings go with members of the laity. It was amazing to see how such a nonpartisan issue got spun into something ugly. (Obama's health care plan means there won't be any innovation in treatment.) Since when does someone getting access to insurance have anything to do with whether or not you guys are going to fund clinical trials? Do we have to wait for our children to get breast cancer before they see the effects of research dollars?

There is also a rumor going around that scientists are not interested in translating their research into useable treatments because they are enjoying the gravy train of grant money. So the person who is smart enough to come up with the cure to cancer is going to sit on it because there will be no more money after that secret is out. Because who would want to give more grant money to that guy? It's not like he could find anything else to do. But, if you're out there, Mr. Scientist, and you HAVE come up with the cure and are worried about your future, please let me blog about it here. I got a lot of attention from Sears; I'm sure I could do the same for you.

Meanwhile, my father was in meetings with the Maryland offices. Out of his seven meetings, he did not get to see one elected official. But he sure did see lots of very young aides.

At one of his meetings, a parent in my father's group tried to relate the number of people who died on September 11, 2001 to how many kids die each year from cancer. The question was asked, "Do you know where you were on 9/11?" The aide's answer, "No." In my opinion, she should have done one of two things: lie or tell the truth ("I was at recess/naptime/potty training."). Her answer made it very hard to move along with the analogy.

While my dad was picking his jaw up off of the floor, we were on our way to meet with Jerome Murray of Representative G.K. Butterfield's office.

Nice guy. Full of empathy and nervous laughter. Is this the office that will be the impetus for funding? Well, let me put it this way: are my stretchmarks going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition?

Meeting #5 was with Laura Thrift of Representative David Price's office. Here, you can see Eve signing into law a very important act.

Or maybe she's just thinking of ways she can use the pen against Mommy into order to secure her freedom. It's 5:00 and she's been without toys and snacks all day.

Rep. Price flew in from N.C. just in time to meet the half-kidney wonder. We liked him. I really got the feeling he's on our side. (As if anyone should be on the other side.)

Two more meetings scheduled- one with Rep. Brad Miller and one with Rep. Sue Myrick. But it's quitting time. I know when enough if enough. Remember Press Your Luck? I felt like going to another meeting was going to mean getting slapped with a big fat whammy. Eve is cute, but I don't know how far that would get her if she started breaking Congressional awards and the like out of boredom.

Normally when I open our front door, Eve runs for the hills. Yesterday, she ran from the Hill.

I'm freeeee! Freedom. Whether you're a Senator or George Michael, it's always a good thing.

At the end of the day, I hate to admit that I felt pretty insignificant.

But I'm going to come back next year. And probably bug them a lot in between. They work for me, afterall.

More rush hour traffic. Home an hour later. I was sore. I was tired. I was in bed by 8.

Just a day after meeting with these public servants and sharing stories of the children who couldn't be there, one more child died of rhabdomyosarcoma. Another died of brain cancer. One girl has undergone six experimental treatments in the past two years and still sees a nodule growing larger on her lung; her hope lies in yet another clinical trial. Another was told, after her fourth relapse of Wilms tumor, that there is nothing else that can be done.

Give us the damn money.


  1. why am i so emotional about this post? i swear i just pushed back the tears. maybe it was the last photo combined with the last paragraph.

    on behalf of my family thank you for going to the hill and being the voice of many.

  2. You need to forward your blog post to every single Representative you spoke with yesterday. I doubt they will forget Mrs. Griffith and Eve when this time rolls around next year.

  3. Girl you are amazing! I am so proud of you. We hope to go to Reach the Day next year. Let's take over D.C together! I personally know the child with Wilms on her 4th relapse. We met the family during our treatment and they are some of our best friends.

    Hollie Greene
    mom to Jackie

  4. Can I just tell you that I love you, Mrs. Griffith?? You bring up so many incredible points in here... wow.
    Jen Neeley (mom to Rachel)

  5. Christy,

    nice blog, mind if I share it with others? Please look into PAC2, an advocacy group I co-founded. THanks and best to you and Eve.

    AJs Dad

  6. Hi AJAy- I signed up for PAC2 a few months ago! Lots of good stuff on there. Feel free to share the blog.

  7. I love that you made the trip. It frustrates me beyond believe to know the reps turn the other cheek even with the child right on front of them! Makes me want to scream. The plight of pediatric cancer is definitely one of my passions now. We will continue to carry the torch in every way we can. These precious cancer warriors (our children) need a voice! Thank you for sharing all of this with the world and putting the action to your words. Inspiring!

  8. Thank you. Just...thank you. Amazing effort, amazing writing, from one amazing mom.
    Thank you, for all of it.